The Cost of Christmas: Fears 1 in 5 families are headed into debt

Exclusive research for ITV News has revealed how the cost of living crisis has put an affordable Christmas out of reach for hundreds of thousands of families.

1 in 5 households are expected to go into debt or extend their debt this year - and increased worries about the cost of the festive season is having a detrimental impact on mental health - with many families saying they're now more stressed than excited.

These financial pressures are all too familiar to the parishioners at the church of St Matthew's the Apostle in Burnley.

Samantha has been saving for Christmas for months - trying to keep the pressures of the festive season away from her son - but she says keeping up with the bills has been a real challenge:

"It is disheartening", Judy agrees, "The cost of living is just absolutely horrendous, I went shopping yesterday, I spent £100. I was running through my shopping list thinking 'It's not right, it's not right'... and if I have to pay more for the bills obviously I'll have to cut on what the kids get for Christmas"

"I used to do my regular shopping and then if I had spare money at the end of the week I'd pick up stocking fillers for the kids", mum of five Jenny explains, "You'd start in August or September and I'd have quite a lot by the end. But now my bills will come and then there's nothing left!"

Consumers reported that the cost of food and presents were their primary concern, with 11% of people going into debt over the Christmas period.

That's a worry for Gareth Shaw, the Deputy Editor at

"We don't advise anybody gets into debt for Christmas, that means you're going to be paying off those gifts you bought for one day of the year, maybe for 12 months, maybe for 24 months."

"Take a step back, think about 'Do I really need to spend money on this?'"

Here are his tips for financially managing the festive season:

22% of households say they plan to borrow using their credit card, and 'buy now pay later' schemes are also anticipating a rise in demand as families look to spread the cost of Christmas as much as possible.

Clearpay, who run an interest free buy now pay later platform, say households should use budgeting tools available to them to make sure they're comfortable with their spending plan:

But there are warnings that not every lender could be so scrupulous when it comes to safeguarding people's money.

At Wood Street Mission in Manchester, staff lay out donated toys and gifts like a shopfront, so that families in need can enjoy the dignity and fun of choosing their children's Christmas presents.

Staff hope it will keep some from turning to loan sharks:

But donations have also gone down "quite dramatically".

CEO Des Lynch said "We've struggled sometimes for some of the children's clothing that we'd normally be able to provide, and I think that's because more people are in trouble themselves.

"Whereas before they had a little bit of the means to give to charity, they don't now, or they're sorting out their more immediate members of the family who are struggling, and that has a knock on effect on us"

Back at St Matthew's, the local vicar Father Alex Frost hopes this Thursday will see the Government deliver compassionate economic policies, so that next Christmas is less of a worry for many: